This man, p.30
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       This Man, p.30

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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Page 30

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  He leans forward. ‘I admire your professionalism. ’

  ‘Thank you. ’ I’m bloody blushing again.

  ‘I hope this won’t affect our business relationship, Ava. I very much look forward to working with you. ’

  ‘I’m looking forward to working with you too, Mikael. ’

  He lifts himself from the couch, approaching me with his hand stretched out. Thank God! I take it, letting him gently shake it. Did he really just drag me here to ask me to dinner? He could have called me.

  ‘I shall endeavor to email you at my earliest opportunity. Once I return from Denmark, I would like to show you around the building. Until then, you can draft some schemes. I’ve had the drawings sent to your office, and I’ll email you the specifics. ’

  ‘Thank you, Mikael. Enjoy your trip. ’

  ‘Goodbye, Ava. ’ His long legs take him out of the snug.

  Well, that was uncomfortable. I sit and finish my water while deliberating over my current emotional turmoil. If Jesse was as gracious as Mikael, then I wouldn’t be feeling so shitty right now. Never mixing business and pleasure has never been a rule because I’ve never had to make one. In the space of two weeks, I’ve had two wealthy and very handsome clients pursue me. One I’ve declined, the other I‘ve caved in on. And, as a result, I’m all over the place. Not mixing business and pleasure is now a firm rule and one I intend to stick to. Not that I need to reinforce it. Mikael took my decline rather graciously and Jesse hasn’t called since abandoning me. Abandoning?

  By two thirty, I’m back in the office. I don’t mention to Patrick the strangeness of my meeting with Mikael Van Der Haus, mainly because I’m concerned that, in the name of business, he’ll demand I go to dinner with him. Patrick will assume it would be a business dinner, but Mikael made it perfectly clear that there would be no business involved. Instead, I just mention emails, drawings and his intention to show me the building upon his return from Denmark. This seems to keep him happy.

  I get my phone from my bag, noting no missed calls. I ignore the pang of disappointment and start making a few notes on Scandinavian design. I know I’ll be basing my design around clean, white, easy living, but I’m comforted by the fact that it will be tranquil and warm, not sparse and cold.

  My phone rings and I grab it, way too hastily. It’s Kate.

  ‘Hi. ’ I greet in an over the top, chirpy voice. I don’t know why I bother. She sees straight through it.

  ‘Faking detachment, are we?’ she asks.

  ‘Yes. ’

  ‘I thought so. Have you not heard from him?’

  ‘No. ’

  ‘Liking monosyllables today, huh?’

  ‘Yes. ’

  She sighs heavily down the phone. ‘Whatever. Have you asked Victoria and Gayboy if they’re up for Saturday night?’

  ‘No. I will, though. I’ve just got back from a very strange meeting. ’ I open my top drawer to grab a paperclip, noticing the calla lily squished down the side of my stapler.

  ‘Strange how?’ She’s intrigued.

  ‘I went to meet the developer of Lusso, well, one of them. He asked me to dinner. It was really uncomfortable. ’ I grab the lily and chuck it in the bin quickly.

  She laughs down the phone at me. ‘How old is this one?’

  I bristle at her insinuation. He’s much older than Jesse. How much older is unknown, but he’s definitely older. I’ll probably never know now, though. ‘Mid-forties I guess, but extremely handsome, in a Scandinavian kinda way. ’ I shrug to myself while guiding my mouse aimlessly around the screen. He’s nowhere near Jesse’s league, but he’s handsome, nonetheless.

  ‘You’re like a mature man magnet at the moment. Are you going?’

  ‘No!’ I screech. ‘Why would I?’

  ‘Why not?’ I can’t see her, but I know she has a questioning eyebrow arched.

  ‘No, I can’t, because I have a new rule…no mixing business with pleasure. ’

  ‘MOVE!’ she screams, making me jump at my desk. ‘Sorry, some prat just cut me up. No mixing business with pleasure, ah?’

  ‘Yes. Are you driving and talking on your mobile, Miss Matthews?’ I challenge her. I know Margo doesn’t have a hands free kit.

  ‘Yeah, I’d better beat feet. See you at home. And don’t forget to tell Gay boy and Victoria the plans for Saturday. ’

  ‘What are the plans?’ I blurt before she hangs up.

  ‘Get drunk, Baroque, eight o’clock. ’

  Get drunk. Yes, that’s a very good plan.

  I leave the office at six with Tom and Victoria. ‘Saturday night, Guys?’

  Tom stops abruptly, dramatically putting his palms out with a shocked expression on his smooth, baby face.

  ‘Oh my God, yes! I brought the most amazing coral shirt at lunch time. It’s divine!’

  Victoria giggles, slapping his arse to push him onwards. ‘Where are we going?’ she asks.

  ‘Baroque at eight. ’ I answer. ‘We’ll see where the night takes us. ’

  ‘I’m in!’ Victoria sings at me. ‘But no gay joints, Tom. It’s my turn to pull. ’ she grumbles

  Tom frowns. ‘What about me?’

  ‘You’ve had your feed. It’s my turn,’ she spits, ‘Besides, what about the scientist?’

  ‘You know, science is actually very boring. ’ he grumbles.

  We say our goodbyes at Green Park Station. I take Jubilee to Central, while Victoria and Tom hop on Piccadilly.

  Chapter 17

  ‘Morning,’ I know I sound like a miserable cow, but I’m trying really hard not to be.

  Tom looks up from his copy of Interiors Weekly and lowers his glasses to the end of his nose. ‘Darling, why the long face?’ he asks. I can’t even muster up the energy to plaster on a fake smile. I slump in my chair, and Tom’s sprawled across my desk, like mature ivy, within a second. ‘Here, this will cheer you up. ’

  He presents me with a feature in the magazine he’s reading and there, sat casually on the velvet chaise lounge at Lusso, is me. ‘Wonderful,’ I sigh. I don’t even bother reading it. I need to eradicate all things relating to Lusso from my mind.

  ‘Man trouble?’ He gives me a look of sympathy.

  No, not man trouble – there’s no man to be having trouble with. I sulk. I knew it would be the last time I saw him. When he stalked off, I knew deep down that I wouldn’t see him again. I’ve not been checking my phone every ten minutes, I’ve not been mooding over it and I’m not twiddling my hair as I think this. I reluctantly admit…I really miss him. How ridiculous. He was a rebound fuck.

  ‘I’m fine,’ I find the strength to slap a smile on my face. ‘It’s Friday, I’m looking forward to getting plastered tomorrow night. ’ I need a good night out.

  ‘Are we really getting plastered? Fabulous!’

  My attention is turned to the office entrance when I hear the high pitched screech of Victoria.

  ‘Oh…my…God! You will not believe what I just saw. ’ She’s on the verge of passing out.

  Tom and I both look at her blankly. ‘What?’ we ask in unison.

  ‘So, I was in Starbucks, waiting for my double shot cappuccino with extra chocolate, and this guy walks in – I recognise him from somewhere. I’m not sure where, but he’s one hot piece of man. Anyway, he’s just stood there, minding his own, and this woman comes strutting in and tips a frappuccino all over him,’ She pauses to draw breath. ‘So, the woman starts screaming at him, calling him a lying, selfish arsehole, and then just walks out, leaving him dripping in frozen coffee and cream. It was all very dramatic. ’

  I sit and watch as Victoria recovers from her two breath commentary about the happenings of Starbucks on a Friday morning. Nothing like that ever happens when I’m in there.

  ‘It sounds like someone’s been a naughty boy,’ Tom smirks. ‘How hot was he?’

  I roll my eyes.
No doubt Tom would have flown to his rescue.

  Victoria hands come up in front of her, palms forward. ‘We’re talking Men’s Vogue. ’

  ‘No!’ Tom takes his glasses off. ‘Is he still there?’

  She screws her pretty little face up. ‘No. ’

  Oh, this is ridiculous.

  Patrick comes barrelling into the office. ‘Guys, have we any work to do, or is it fart around Friday?’ He passes us swiftly, heading into his office and shutting the door behind him.

  ‘You two, let’s get on with some work, shall we?’ I shoo them away from my desk.

  ‘Oh, I forgot. ’ Tom swings around. ‘Van Der Haus called to say he’ll be back in London on Monday. He’ll call you upon his return. He’s emailing you the specifics and had these sent over. Is he hot?’ His eyebrows jump up suggestively as he hands me an envelope.

  He’s the biggest gay tart, but I’ll humour him. ‘Very. ’ I take the drawings, widening my eyes for affect.

  He screws his face up. ‘How come you get all the dishy clients?’ He walks back to his desk. ‘What I wouldn’t give to have an Adonis walk in here and throw me over his shoulder. ’

  I wince at Tom’s referral to Jesse’s performance the last time I saw him and pull my phone out of my bag when it starts bleeping with a calendar reminder. Oh, my hairdresser’s appointment, tomorrow at noon. I forgot about that. Well, that’s improved my mood slightly. And I’ll be nicely groomed for our big night out. Perfect.

  I work my way through heaps of quotations, delivery schedules and contractor requirements, before calling my live clients to check all is well. It is, apart from Mrs Peters swags and tails drama. An email lands from Mikael. I scan it quickly, deciding to look at it in more detail on Monday.

  Sally comes scuttling up to my desk with a delivery. ‘Urm…I think this may be for you, Ava. ’ She shifts from side to side with a box in her hand. ‘Do you want it?

  What? Yes, I want it. If it’s a delivery for me, then I guess I want it. Oh, this girl is painfully anxious. I take the box from her hands.

  ‘Thank you, Sally. Will you make Patrick a coffee?’

  ‘I didn’t know he wanted one. ’

  Oh, the panic on her face has me wanting to make her a coffee. ‘Well, he doesn’t look right. Let’s look after him. ’

  ‘Is he okay? He’s not ill, is he?’

  ‘No, but I think he could do with a coffee. ’ I press, trying my hardest not to lose my patience.

  ‘Of course. ’ She scuttles off, her brown plaid skirt swishing around her court shoes. I couldn’t even hazard a guess at her age. She looks about forty, but intuition tells me she’ll shock me and be nearer my age. I open the box and find all of the material swatches I ordered for The Life Building. I throw the box under my desk. I’ll deal with them on Monday too.

  As six o’clock approaches, I pop my head around Patrick’s door. He really doesn’t look right.

  ‘Patrick, I’m off. Are you okay?’

  He looks up from his computer and smiles, but his eyes don’t sparkle like usual. ‘I’m just feeling a little peaky, flower. ’

  ‘You should go home. ’ I’m worried.

  ‘I think I will. ’ He heaves his big body up from behind his desk and turns his computer off. ‘Bloody woman’s fed me something dodgy. ’ he mutters as he picks up his briefcase.

  ‘Everything’s been turned off. You just need to set the alarm. ’

  ‘That’s good. Have a good weekend, flower. I’ll see you on Monday. ’ He wipes the back of his hand over his sweating brow. There’s definitely something wrong.

  ‘Okay, see you on Monday. ’

  ***

  I stand in my bedroom ready to go. My hair is behaving – happy that it’s been blow dried into tumbling waves, courtesy of Philippe, my hairdresser – and the new dress I picked up from Selfridges was a panic buy to make me feel better but fits perfectly. It’s black, short and very tight. With dramatic, smudged eyes and nude lips, I’m looking pretty sultry.
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